After more than 40 years, one of Rockville Centre’s most favorite mail carriers is retiring. To mark the occasion, customers on Bob Towns’ route gave him a proper send-off on July 1, near the end of his shift, to show how much they have appreciated his service.
“I was in shock,” Towns said upon seeing the people waiting to celebrate with him. “A lot of these people have become personal friends at this point.”
Towns, who lives in Elmont, began working for the United States Postal Service on Oct. 6, 1979, and took over his current route, consisting of 358 houses, in March of 1989.
“I’ve seen kids grow up and some now have their own kids,” Towns said. “I’ve been to wakes, graduation parties and block parties. It’s a good route, with good, down-to-earth people.”
Towns, 63, said that being friendly and outgoing helped him establishment relationships with the customers on his route, “smack in the center of Rockville Centre,” which encompasses Dartmouth, Princeton.. While working, he said, he would often be invited to join any celebrations going on in the neighborhood.
For 36 years, he was on the “overtime list” and worked six days a week, so his customers “always saw me.” Four years ago, he said, with his children grown and out of college, he asked to be taken off the list and now just works five days a week. “Time is more important than overtime to me now.”
Being a mail carrier has its share of challenges, and over the years, Towns delivered mail through hurricanes, blizzards and rainstorms.
“It gets rough in the winter,” he said. “When I was younger, I thought of it like an adventure. Now, I don’t think of it that way. I’m looking forward to the first snowstorm of the winter, looking out the window and saying, ‘I don’t have to walk in that.’”
The customers have helped keep his spirits up, and throughout the pandemic, he said even strangers stop him to thank him for his service. He has witnessed children and mothers eagerly awaiting the arrival of their school schedules in late summer, and been accomplice to people anxious to receive the credit card statements before their spouses could see them.
Eighteen years ago, on the Fourth of July, he said, a good friend retired, and he decided that would be a good date to mark his own retirement. Last year, he made the decision to make July 4 of this year his retirement date.
“Independence Day will be my true personal independence day,” he said.
For Towns, retirement will not be a time to sit down and relax – and moving to Florida is out of the question – but rather an opportunity to spend time on his hobbies, such as gardening and woodworking, and traveling upstate to hike in the woods.
“Being a couch potato is not in my DNA,” Towns said. “I’ll stay active, and I love the four seasons.”
Those on his route will miss seeing him every day.
“He is such a staple in the community,” Bryan Madden said. “Just a great guy.
“He’s not your typical mailman,” said Pan Schaefer. “He looks out for people and their pets. He would bring packages to your backdoor so they wouldn’t get stolen, and he brought back lost dogs.”